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Stats & Data

October 28, 2012

With Sandy breathing down our necks, it's good to remember Weather Forecasters are paid pessimists.


50/50 Chance of Something

Jim McPartland


I don’t know about some of you, but for me, watching the weather reports on TV, be it The Weather Channel or local news, is an incredibly frustrating experience. You rely on them to be able to tell you whether it’s ‘batten-down-the-hatches-Tsunami-time’ or break out the 30 SPF Coppertone.


But, no. These people are clueless.


I’m pretty sure there are very few businesses where if you’re wrong at least half the time, they keep you around for long.


It really comes across more like a bad drama/CSI episode.


At 5:03, the pearly white gleam of ‘Dr.’ Weatherman (degree via U of Phoenix online) comes on and teases you with an “I have a forecast of impending doom. More at 5:20.”


At 5:21, he’s in front of ye ol’ chromo key, playing with his remote. I prefer the days of weathermen using Velcro and a felt board where ‘Mr. Sunny’ would get replaced by ‘Mr. Blowing Wind.’


I’m totally convinced these weather people are paid pessimists. If they tell you it’ll be 75 degrees and sunny the next seven days, you’re not tuning in again until day 8. (This is why they have only scantily clad women doing forecasts in San Diego.)


So—it becomes, “Rain, maybe sleet—could be rain and sleet (ergo the catch phrase wintry mix) —or, something may mix with snow. How much? Answer at 5:47.”


And they do it with such sadistic pleasure. Like they know you’ll have to cancel that Monday Memorial Day picnic on the Thursday prior, forcing your Aunt Margie into a panic attack. But they don’t care. “Don’t kill the messenger” is their mantra.


Look—if UPS kept giving me packages that were wrong, screwed up, or meant for someone on the other side of the globe, I might think about using FedEx.


Unfortunately when it comes to the weather ‘game’ there aren’t any better options—they all suck.


The folks at The Weather Channel at least try to doll themselves up more professionally. They have the ‘science geek’ with his pocket protector and protractor in hand, actually measuring the radius of the Canadian front moving through Alberta. But is he any better at telling me exactly when it’s coming my way, so I can possibly leave LaGuardia Airport earlier and not get stuck playing blackjack with the flight crew from Schenectady at the gate? Nope.


And then they become mysterious mathematicians.


“Tonight: snow—accumulating 3 to 5 inches. Tomorrow: snow continues—accumulating 3 to 5 inches.”


Whoa! Stop! Did you guys ever learn the word ‘total’—meaning this PLUS that equals whatever? How much are we getting altogether?3 to 5, or 6 to 10? IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Maybe just substitute the word ‘accumulatED’ so I might draw a conclusion?


It has to be worse in the South where hurricanes and tornados are a real threat, or in Seattle, where rainfall is as common as Starbucks. Snow, after all, is not all that dangerous when handled properly. SUV drivers take note.


I can’t imagine what it’s like to be kicking around New Orleans thinking the 150 proof Slurpee you’re chugging might be your last if you can’t make the bridge before the whole place becomes Atlantis[1].


If you have kids who don’t know what to do with their lives and are considering a career in Oxycontin street sales, I would strongly steer them towards meteorology.


In the movie The Graduate, a young Dustin Hoffman was advised “Plastics!” Today, it would be “Teleprompter and Crest Whitening Strips!”


[1] This was written prior to Katrina. The author considered removing the New Orleans reference but decided to leave it in its original form